Show review: Prolight + Sound provides an immersive experience - Installation
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Show review: Prolight + Sound provides an immersive experience

The most noticeable trend in the audio hall at Prolight + Sound this year was an increase in the number of companies involved in immersive audio – whether offering it directly or working closely with others who do. But there were plenty of other developments to explore
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This short performance on the CAST Software stand used position tracking and other technologies to enable a dancer to interact with the environment being projected around him   

This short performance on the CAST Software stand used position tracking and other technologies to enable a dancer to interact with the environment being projected around him   

Immersive audio was a key theme at Prolight + Sound this year, with several companies showing new technologies in this area, and also announcing co-operative product developments.

d&b audiotechnik held a series of live sessions mixing live multitrack recordings, to demonstrate its Soundscape 3D audio system. These were carried out by Serge Gräfe, front-of- house engineer for electro pioneers Kraftwerk. d&b also announced a series of integrations between the DS100 Signal Engine – the heart of Soundscape – and digital mixing consoles from DiGiCo, Avid and Lawo.

DiGiCo also announced that L-ISA Source Control for L-Acoustics’ L-ISA immersive technology has been natively integrated into its SD-Series consoles. This means that L-ISA’s object-based mixing technology has been added to the consoles’ control surface.

L-ISA was on show on L-Acoustics' own stand as well. The company held standing-room-only demonstrations of the technology, which it describes as a new way of designing, processing, mixing and experiencing sound (or 'Immersive Sound Art'). In addition, the L-ISA Island showroom, which demonstrated residential applications of the technology, was another popular draw. 

Out Board was showing the new TiMax 500S software for its TiMax SoundHub. This offers enhanced programming and show control workflows for the rendering and control of live, presentation and experiential spatial reinforcement and immersive audio. The company also previewed the new bespoke TiMax FPGA dsp core, which is said to offer unparalleled new creative tools for spatial reinforcement, 3D audio and acoustic enhancement.

Amadeus launched the HOLOPHONIX processor, which combines a number of spatial audio techniques to enable sounds to be ‘placed’ in 2D or 3D space. Dante-compatible – but also configurable on request for RAVENNA, MADI or AES67 – it natively handles 128 inputs and 128 outputs in 24-bit/96kHz resolution, but can be extended to 256 or 384 inputs and outputs.

Astro Spatial Audio, which held a joint press conference with stand neighbour Alcons Audio, demonstrated the latest developments in its portfolio, which included the new Stagetracker II from TTA.

Other audio

Optocore launched the Festival Box, which enables multiple consoles and protocols to be connected to the stage box over a single duplex fibre cable. As the name suggests, it is primarily targeting the live sound market, particularly festivals, where different acts will bring their own equipment and sound engineers.

There were also a number of companies launching loudspeakers at Prolight + Sound. Crest Audio’s ‘revolutionary’ Versarray PRO powered line array also received its global show debut in Frankfurt. It comprises the Versarray PRO VR112 line array element and the VR-PRO 215 sub, and features integrated Dante audio networking and built-in DSP.

The VR112 features Crest Audio’s latest Mark III ribbon drivers and proprietary CLEAR FORM Waveguide, plus a 12in NEO Black Widow neodymium loudspeaker with dual 4in voice coils. The compact, flyable VR-PRO 215 sub features dual 15in drivers and delivers full power down to 35Hz and a peak SPL of 135dB.

CODA Audio launched three new multi-purpose compact subwoofers at the show. The U12 and the U12i slimline wall-mounted model are single 12in models that handle 800W, while the U15 is a 15in sub with 1,000W power handling and 133dB SPL. All three models feature low port compression, ultra-low distortion woofers and have enclosures optimally designed for a tight, accurate bass response.

Powersoft said it was seeking to redefine the concept of infra bass with its revamped M-Force transducer. The new 301P01 model is available in two versions: the long-throw M-Force 01 for infra sub applications and the short-throw M-Force 02 for high acceleration applications. Both have been engineered to squeeze all available power from switching-mode amplifiers to deliver maximum SPL, as well as ‘unbelievable’ levels of power handling, electromagnetic conversion and reliability.

After not exhibiting at Prolight + Sound last year, HK Audio returned with the largest product launch in its more than 35-year history: its new pro audio range, designed to meet demanding installation requirements. The COSMO line array system family, comprised of three models, has been developed to be extremely flexible and easily configurable. CONTOUR X is a point-source PA series designed to significantly reduce unwanted distortion and increase the maximum usable SPL by several decibels. The two are complemented by C SUB 118 and the C SUB 218 cabinets, which offer high efficiency and extremely high load capacity.

Additionally, d&b launched its top-of-the-range GSL series during Prolight + Sound. We'll have more about that at a later date.

Show control and media servers

Returning briefly to immersive audio, 3D sound integration from L-Acoustics was part of the show that took place on the CAST Software stand. The three-minute performance saw a dancer interacting with theatre-themed 4K projected graphics on the back wall and the floor – making rain stop and start, and creating a web-like network of lines around his silhouette. The show also used media servers from disguise and Notch for projected and live-generated content; Panasonic projectors; and PTZ cameras from Panasonic and Bradley Engineering to track the dancer.

disguise was also exhibiting in its own right, previewing r15 software release. This includes Lux, a tool that brings together the technical planning and creative vision of a project, featuring ambient occlusion, directional light, camera exposure and enhanced projector simulation. The software is also VR-compatible; visitors to the stand could put on an HTC Vive headset and be transported onto a stage where they could look around the set and the auditorium and see the effect of changes to lighting and projection. Also included within r15 is OmniCal, a camera-based projector calibration engine that is claimed to make set-up time significantly shorter.

A relative newcomer to the media server world is Analog Way, which added this technology to its portfolio with the acquisition of Finnish manufacturer Picturall last November. The Analog Way Picturall series offers resolutions up to 8K, uncompressed playback performance and the ability to drive a large number of 4K@60 projectors or LED processors from a single server.

The company was also showing the Ascender 48-4K-PL – a high-end 4K seamless switcher. Like all of the LiveCore product family, it has been designed for 24/7 heavy-duty operation. It features 4K live processing, seamless switching on all layers and an intuitive web-based user interface.

Lighting

New from Robe was the Tarrantula, described by the company as its most powerful LED beam/wash/effects fixture. It is powered by one 60W and 36 30W LED chips to provide 20,000 lumens of output. The beam angle can be adjusted from a tight 4° spot to a wide 50° wash. The Beam Shaper accessory creates a traditional oval beam that can be indexed for precision coverage of the stage or performance area. Driven by the 60W RGBW multichip, Robe’s exclusive ‘Flower Effect’, creates sharp, speed-controlled spikes of light that can be rotated in either direction.

GDS’s latest product offering addresses a shortcoming frequently exhibited by LED lighting fixtures: while many can mimic tungsten fixtures convincingly, they fail to maintain a warm colour temperature when dimmed. GDS’ Fade To Warm technology addresses this. Originally available for the ArcLamp range, it is now being rolled out across the ArcSystem range, and is available in 1, 2, 4 and 8-cell fixtures.

WORK PRO, a brand of Equipson, was showing the Light Shark – an innovative web-based, cross-platform lighting controller. It consists of two hardware elements: the LS-1 which can connect to up to three devices to create a multiscreen control system; and the LS Core, which is the smallest eight-universe lighting console on the market. However, because the interface itself is web-based, additional tablets or other portable devices can be used as control surfaces.

Closing comments

The start of the exhibition was affected by public transport strikes and over 800 cancelled flights. This doubtless contributed to the widespread observation that the second day of the show drew a lot more stand traffic than the first.

Just over 92,000 people attended Prolight + Sound and Musikmesse this year. There were more visitors from outside Germany and an increase in the proportion of trade visitors, but as the organisers did not release numbers for the individual events, it’s hard to gauge the extent to which these trends apply to PL+S, the smaller of the two shows.

A number of major names from the audio world that had exhibited at the show last year were not there this year – although conversely, some companies came back, notably HK Audio and Peavey/Crest Audio.

However, the exodus of audio companies seems not to have ended. For example, on the first morning of the show, the press were welcomed to “our last Prolight + Sound press conference” by DiGiCo managing director James Gordon. (He later clarified to Installation that while it had not been completely decided that the company would not be at the show next year, there was “a good chance” that this would be the case.)

Talking to exhibitors revealed a mixed picture regarding satisfaction with the show. Equipson, for instance, stopped exhibiting its audio products at the show two years ago, but since then has shown its lighting and stage products elsewhere on the showfloor, and COO/CMO Juan Jose Vila declared himself happy with the results. By contrast, ic audio exhibits at ISE as well as Prolight + Sound; business analyst and controller Sascha Riedling told us that the two shows attract different kinds of visitors, so it makes sense for the company to take stands at both. Some companies said they mainly see German visitors at the show, while others said they see a broad mix of nationalities. So it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions.

For its part, the show’s organisers are pursuing a strategy of making the most of the synergies between the two events – so next year, Prolight + Sound will overlap completely with Musikmesse (with the latter continuing for a fifth day on the Saturday). Most systems integrators coming to Frankfurt are likely to be indifferent to this closer tie-up between the two shows, but let’s see if it appeals to the broader visitor base. 

www.pls-messefrankfurt.com

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